aunt sami

Art by swim­mingtrunks (http://​swim​mingtrunks​.tum​blr​.com/)

Thurs­day, Sec­re­tary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that the Pen­ta­gon would lift a for­mal ban on women in com­bat roles in the US Military.

It’s likely this is the last major act by Sec­re­tary Panetta, who is step­ping down. Even if it’s not his last act, there is no doubt this is the act with the great­est import he has taken in his abbre­vi­ated stint as the head of the Defense Department.

Coun­tries cur­rently allow­ing women in com­bat (map) are mostly in Europe: Den­mark, Esto­nia, Fin­land, France, Ger­many, Lithua­nia, Nether­lands, Nor­way, Poland, Roma­nia, and Swe­den; and in pros­per­ous English-​​speaking coun­tries: Aus­tralia, Canada and New Zealand. In addi­tion, one des­per­ate coun­try (Israel) and two des­per­ately poor coun­tries (Eritrea and North Korea) allow women in combat.

Women are pilot­ing US fighter air­craft already. Other nations that allow women fighter pilots are Pak­istan, Ser­bia, South Africa, South Korea and the United King­dom of Great Britain and North­ern Ire­land (or, as I pre­fer to call it, UKoG­BaNI, “you-​​kay-​​oh-​​guh-​​ban-​​nee”).

Women already serve in com­bat roles in the US mil­i­tary, but through a num­ber of (draft?) dodges, the mil­i­tary estab­lish­ment has main­tained the fic­tion that they do not. For exam­ple, there’s this anec­dote reported by CNN​.com from the Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen­eral Mar­tin Dempsey:

As he pre­pared for a trip out­side his head­quar­ters, he took a moment to intro­duce him­self to the crew of his Humvee.

I slapped the tur­ret gun­ner on the leg and I said, ‘Who are you?’ And she leaned down and said, I’m Amanda.’ And I said, ‘Ah, OK,’ ” Dempsey told reporters at the Pentagon.

So, female turret-​​gunner pro­tect­ing divi­sion com­man­der. It’s from that point on that I real­ized some­thing had changed, and it was time to do some­thing about it.”

At this writ­ing, 67 of the nearly 3,500 Amer­i­cans killed by hos­tile fire in Iraq and 33 of the more than 1,700 killed in com­bat in Afghanistan have been women. About 1,000 of the 50,000-plus US wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan are women.

It’s not clear what phys­i­cal stan­dards will be set for many of the spe­cial­ized élite com­bat roles — such as Navy SEALS and Army Rangers — but while gen­der will not be a cri­te­rion, most every­one agrees that the phys­i­cal stan­dards will exclude all but the most excep­tional of women.

If mem­bers of our mil­i­tary can meet the qual­i­fi­ca­tions for a job — and let me be clear, I’m not talk­ing about reduc­ing the qual­i­fi­ca­tions for the job — if they can meet the qual­i­fi­ca­tions for the job, then they should have the right to serve, regard­less of creed or color or gen­der or sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion. — Sec­re­tary of Defense Leon Panetta

In one of those coin­ci­dences of his­tory, Panetta’s announce­ment came just two days after the 40th anniver­sary of Roe v. Wade, the land­mark Supreme Court deci­sion writ­ten by Jus­tice Harry Black­mun (who was appointed by the rav­ing lib­eral, Pres­i­dent Dwight David Eisenhower).

Women already serve as pilots.

Women already serve as pilots.

The con­ver­gence of two lines of thought, one for each of these events, got me to reflect­ing on my childhood.

Norma McCor­vey was a high school dropout, a drug user, and preg­nant in 1969. (McCor­vey has since spo­ken out against both abor­tion and Pres­i­dent Obama.)

Two years later, in Novem­ber 1971, National Air­lines unveiled their bla­tantly sex­ist and belit­tling “Fly Me” cam­paign. Derided even at the time as being a bit outré, now it seems, only 42 years later, to belong to another uni­verse, or at least some­thing more dis­tant in time than, say, Down­ton Abbey. Now Cheryl may be the pilot, but frankly, I wouldn’t care whether she was a Wook­iee, so long as she can out­run Impe­r­ial star­ships. Not the local bulk cruis­ers mind you, I’m talk­ing about the big Corel­lian ships now.

The next month, Decem­ber 13, 1971, a lawyer defend­ing Dal­las County Dis­trict Attor­ney Henry Wade (Wade was the respon­dent on behalf of the State of Texas), began glibly with a clunky attempt at wit: “It’s an old joke, but when a man argues against two beau­ti­ful ladies like this, they are going to have the last word.”

We make Virginia Slims especially for women because they are biologically superior to men. That's right superior women are more resistant to starvation, fatigue, exposure, shock and illness than men are. Women have two "X" chromosomes in their sex cells while men have only one "X" chromosome and a "Y" chromosome, which some experts consider to be the inferior chromosome. They are also less inclined than men to congenital baldness [illegible text] of the eyes, improperly developed sweat glands, color blindness of the red green type, day blindness, defective hair follicles, defective [illegible text], defective tooth enamel, double eyelashes, skin cysts, shortsightedness, night blindness, [illegible text] retinal detachment and white occipital locks of hair. In view of these and other facts, the makes of Virginia Slims feel it highly inappropriate that women continue to use the fat stubby cigarettes designed for mere men. Virginia Slims. Slimmer than the fat cigarettes men smoke. With rich Virginia flavor women like. You've come a long way, baby.

We make Vir­ginia Slims espe­cially for women because they are bio­log­i­cally supe­rior to men. That’s right, supe­rior. Women are more resis­tant to star­va­tion, fatigue, expo­sure, shock and ill­ness than men are. Women have two “X” chro­mo­somes in their sex cells while men have only one “X” chro­mo­some and a “Y” chro­mo­some, which some experts con­sider to be the infe­rior chro­mo­some. They are also less inclined than men to con­gen­i­tal bald­ness [illeg­i­ble text] of the eyes, improp­erly devel­oped sweat glands, color blind­ness of the red green type, day blind­ness, defec­tive hair fol­li­cles, defec­tive [illeg­i­ble text], defec­tive tooth enamel, dou­ble eye­lashes, skin cysts, short­sight­ed­ness, night blind­ness, [illeg­i­ble text] reti­nal detach­ment and white occip­i­tal locks of hair. In view of these and other facts, the makes of Vir­ginia Slims feel it highly inap­pro­pri­ate that women con­tinue to use the fat stubby cig­a­rettes designed for mere men. Vir­ginia Slims. Slim­mer than the fat cig­a­rettes men smoke. With rich Vir­ginia fla­vor women like. You’ve come a long way, baby. (Source: tobac​codoc​u​ments​.org)

Imag­ine the atti­tudes that have changed among the Amer­i­can peo­ple since that world of 1971. Abor­tion, for 20 years after Roe v. Wade, freely avail­able in the US (at least dur­ing the first trimester of a woman’s preg­nancy) was restricted by the same Court in 1992 and by many state leg­is­la­tures. It is now legal in only a few states under severely restricted con­di­tions. Only a few peo­ple could imag­ine equal rights for les­bian, gay, bisex­ual, or trans­gen­der peo­ple, much less imag­ine any or all of those groups in a com­bat role — or serv­ing in Congress.

Mean­while, the Repub­li­can National Com­mit­tee decides to stay the course, accord­ing to Politico:

On some things, we have the right pol­icy and do a ter­ri­ble job con­vey­ing it. And the Democ­rats have a bad pol­icy and do a great job,” said Mis­sis­sippi Repub­li­can Chair­man Joe Nosef.

So con­ser­v­a­tives feel like, whether this is right or wrong, that if we’re talk­ing about the issues, that we have a really good chance at win­ning. The thing we can’t do is start talk­ing about crazy stuff… We run peo­ple off… A col­lec­tive num­ber of these peo­ple are tired of doing that.”

I feel like a pro-​​life posi­tion is a posi­tion that a lot of peo­ple have, but that doesn’t have any­thing to do with crazy talk about rape,” he added.

Politico reports that “with­out objec­tion, the full RNC approved a res­o­lu­tion by voice vote Fri­day call­ing on Con­gress to defund Planned Par­ent­hood and redis­trib­ute the money intended for can­cer screen­ing and pre­ven­tive ser­vices to orga­ni­za­tions that do not per­form abortions.”

Women, once rel­e­gated to be on-​​demand bun­nies for male enter­tain­ment on flights, are now fly­ing not only the com­mer­cial plane but the air sup­port for warfight­ers on the ground. Soon, women will be among those ground troops.